VANCOUVER, August 8, 2012 — His Olympic title may not have been a Grand Slam, but it is time to put up or shut up about Andy Murray’s performance. He finally broke through at tennis’ highest level Sunday, demolishing in Roger Federer in the men’s singles final, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4. He did it at in the Olympics, at Wimbledon, in front of his home country, on the biggest stage of sports.
So why, did the doubt still linger after he dominated his way to a gold medal? One answer is easy: while the Olympics may be the pinnacle of athletics, it is not the pinnacle of tennis. Though most would argue that tennis’ greatest achievement is winning at Wimbledon, they refer of course to the hallowed Wimbledon Championships played unfailingly every summer during the last week of June and the first week of July.
For years, Olympic tennis languished not just as sub-Grand Slam, but as a total afterthought. By the time Andre Agassi got his career back on track by winning gold at the 1996 Games in Atlanta, the draw was so bare of top seeds that it was even barer than a typical tour event. The silver medalist, Sergi Bruguera of Spain, who Agassi disposed of 6-2, 6-3, 6-1, was a clay-court specialist not even seeded as one of the top sixteen players in the event. The bronze-medal match was won by India’s Leander Paes, a doubles specialist who received a wild-card entry into the draw, over an alternate, Fernando Meligeni of Brazil.
Fast-forward sixteen years, and circumstances have greatly changed. At the London Games, only two of the world’s top sixteen men’s singles players declined to participate. Mardy Fish of the United States, ranked fifteenth and still working his way back from a heart ailment, elected to play at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. Rafael Nadal of Spain, ranked second in the world, withdrew because of a persistent knee injury.
From Nadal’s withdrawal announcement came the best indicator of how far the Olympics have come in the minds of professional tennis players. The statement released by Nadal called his withdrawal “one of the saddest days” of his career.
To hear a professional tennis player - an eleven-time major champion – mourn not being able to play in the Olympics truly demonstrates the regard that the Olympics now hold in tennis. They are no longer an event to be shunned because of the absence of prize money. Instead, they mean what they should represent – the pride of representing one’s country.
Seeing Andy Murray’s joy on Centre Court at Wimbledon, just four weeks after he had lost a heartbreaking final, transcended everything. To say that it meant nothing more than his Masters event wins is almost unthinkable.
On August 5, Murray moved up to a level with the three current tennis giants, Federer, Nadal, and Novak Djokovic. His win is not a Grand Slam title, but it means just as much from the setting, the depth, and his path to the final. The Olympics are at last right next to the majors in importance, and carry an infinite amount of emotion. Perhaps that emotion will finally settle on making a Scotsman England’s favorite son.
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.